Philosophy colloquium: Gregory Brown

Title: Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Princess of Wales: Her Role in the Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence

By Gregory Brown (Philosophy, Houston)

Date: Thursday October 12, 2023

Time: 15.30-17.00 

Room: H232

Abstract: In this paper I briefly discuss the events that unfolded in the runup to the correspondence between Leibniz and Newton’s ally and apologist, Samuel Clarke. I then focus on the role that Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach played in the initiation and development of the correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke. I will argue that the correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke was, from the beginning, much less about the correspondents’ attempting to persuade each other to recant their own views and embrace those of their opponent, and much more about persuading Caroline to accept their own respective positions and to reject those of their opponent. For Leibniz in Hanover, it was about keeping Caroline, the Electoral Princess of Hanover and his erstwhile companion and advocate at the electoral court, loyal to him and his scientific and theological world view; and for Clarke in London, it was about convincing Caroline, the Princess of Wales and future Queen of England, to abandon the Leibnizian world view in Hanover in favor the scientific and theological world view of the Newtonians in England. This story will be told primarily through the letters exchanged between Leibniz and Caroline during the period leading up to and during the correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke.

About the speaker: Greg Brown is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Houston. He received his BA degree in philosophy from the University of Hawaii, Mānoa, and his MA and PhD in history and philosophy of science from the University of Maryland, College Park. He has published widely on the science, metaphysics, and moral philosophy of Leibniz in such journals as Philosophical Review, Journal of the History of Philosophy, British Journal of the History of Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly, Leibniz Review, Studia Leibnitiana, Journal of the History of Ideas, and Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. He has also contributed chapters for a number of edited books, including Leibniz’s Key Philosophical Writings (Oxford UP), Cambridge History of Moral Philosophy, Oxford Handbook of Leibniz, Leibniz and His Correspondents (Cambridge UP), Continuum Companion to Leibniz, Leibniz’ Dynamica (Studia Leibnitiana Sonderheft 13, Franz Steiner Verlag), and Cambridge Companion to Leibniz. He is co-editor, with Yual Chiek, of Leibniz on Compossibility and Possible Worlds (Springer), and his book, The Leibniz-Caroline-Clarke Correspondence, has just been released by Oxford UP. He is currently thinking about a project on the secularization of Leibniz’s moral theory.




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